Rebel Girls are Never One Thing

This week is concert week for the TCWC. Which also means I have limited spoons this week and I need to conserve them. So I’m giving myself permission to write a short blog.

This concert’s theme is “Rebel Girls” and all the songs are about powerful women through history and today, from Abigail Adams advocating for women to have the right to vote in the Articles of Confederation to Malala and Greta Thunberg. Encore’s doing “Warrior” about finding the courage to step up and speak, and Elizabeth Alexander’s “What’s Keeping You From Singing?” which is about women helping each other find joy.

Another of the songs is “Never One Thing” by May Erlewine. The choir sings it with a lot of spirit. A lot of the women in the choir have been rebels themselves, and I love seeing them rejoice in owning that power. And I love sharing that feeling of “I will not be pinned down or pigeon-holed” because I am right there with them. There will be a lot of grinning and rocking out on this one.

And, of course, my favorite is the song inspired by the Charlotte Tall Mountain poem I posted not long ago. There isn’t a good video for it, unfortunately. That’s the one that’s going to dig into my heart and set me free.

Plus, we get to sing a version of Ann Reed’s “Heroes” which is just…if you don’t know it, go hear it. Truly. And feel that litany of names and know that every one of them helped build the world brighter for all of us.

Really, this whole concert is about women’s courage, and about Defiance. It is about changing the world, laughing, never backing down. It is about refusing to be defined by expectations and doing the thing that needs doing.

It’s going to be a good one, especially if I can keep from tearing up every other song. Either way, I’m going to be in my element.

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Writing Year in Review: 2019

I seriously considered not posting this, but I’m trying hard to keep this true and authentic, and the reality is that truth and authenticity include failure. Or roadblocks. And this year was both.

For the first time since I started tracking my writing in 2007, a year has passed in which I did not complete a single work (other than some bits of poetry). The closest analog is 2009, wherein I wrote two short oneshots and polished off a story begun in 2008. 2011 and 2012 were both similar in that, in both years, I finished off a novel and wrote a single oneshot. And I cannot say that I did no writing this year. I worked through the bulk of a novel begun in 2018, although I did not finish it until the trip to Chicago (and my writing year ends with Halloween, so…). I also started 5-6 stories ranging in length from oneshots to very, very long novels. I just wasn’t able to complete them.

But 2019 has been a difficult year no matter how you look at it. In January and February, we began the serious consideration of moving and selling the house, followed by an emotional situation which lingered for months. Then there was the actual buying, selling, moving, and unpacking process. Then I changed jobs. Then the family situation that emerged in August and stole most of my remaining resources. And all this plus the usual crush of TCWC concerts and gigs, CONvergence Operations, and, you know, working every day at my job.

And, amidst all of this, the constant push-pull, up-and-down, hope-and-disappointment of querying my novel.

It’s this last that I think has been the hardest to ignore the most consistently. Sure, while actually moving or negotiating prices I had the focus of a collie on catnip, but most days outside of emotional upheavals, I was pretty balanced. But thinking about writing always came with this crackle of dashed hope inside my skin. How could I focus on producing a new story when, any minute, somebody might decide to pick up the other one?

There is also a lack of closure in the query process. So many agents don’t respond at all to a query letter, even just an automated “thanks but no” message. And I truly understand that — I would be using form letters, too, if I had to suffer the deluge of emails agents and publishers must receive every hour of every day. But there never came a time when I felt I could properly say, “Okay, it’s done now” with the querying, so it was always hanging out there like an open door and chilling me with its draft.

I still haven’t taken the time to mourn the failure, because I’m not sure it is one. The goal I set for myself was to query 50 agents and then give up. I queried 54. But the novel has undertaken such a drastic rewriting (some other writing I got done this year, yay!), it’s a different story in many ways. Or, it’s a tighter, better story, anyway. So there’s a part of me that wants to find another batch of agents and query them, too, with my new-and-improved novel. But there’s also a part of me that wants to let it go. Just accept that this one isn’t making the cut, put my head down, cry about it a while, and then have the process be over so I can start it again.

And I am starting again. I’ve already started, in fact. I’m 12,000 words into the next novel.

The trip to Chicago, while exhausting with all of the driving and being away, gave me time to do nothing but focus on writing. I did 13,000 words in 2 concentrated days of literally nothing but writing. It didn’t feel effortless the way writing was back in 2014 or 2016. It didn’t pour out of me at a speed greater than I can type. But what was lacking in ease I was able to make up with determination. Sitting in that hotel room, I was able to shake myself of distractions, push away the doubt, and just make the words come out. It was a brute force attack, but it worked.

So maybe this is how writing needs to feel right now. Maybe it isn’t easy this year, or for the next few. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It means I have to be uncomfortable doing it. It means I have to feel frustrated, or have to work harder, or have to dig deeper. But I can do those things, and I can still write. I can’t wait for it to feel effortless if I want to produce, but I don’t want to wait anymore. I’ve talked before about my friend Eric who wrote about hunting down the muse and pinning its head to the wall. Writing, for me, cannot currently be an act of simple translation of idea and inspiration to typing, with little needed from me in the middle. Now it is a battle, a slough, an endurance trial.

And if that’s what it takes to get back to writing a novel in 2 months, then that’s what I’ll do.

Because I am a writer. Even when it is difficult. Even when it is impossible. Even when I have a bad year, or the worst year ever. I am a writer. I may fail and fail over and over again, but I will always try once more. I will fight to find a way to make it work. I will do yoga standing on my head or try every prompt in the world or switch to writing long-hand or whatever it takes until I figure out the path needed to get the stories in my soul out of my brain and into the world.

Because the only person in the world who can keep me from crafting my stories is me, and I’m not about to let myself get defeated by my own self. That’s ridiculous.

Same with publishing. The current novel may not find an agent now or ever. I may decide not to keep pushing this one and focus on the next instead. I may have to try five novels, or ten, or twenty, before I find the one that someone wants to publish. But that’s what it takes and that’s what I’m here to do.

(Or, mayyyyybe I consider self-publishing. But that seems like a really quick way to make traditional publishing harder in the future, and I’m not there yet. Talk to me after 20 novels fail to find an agent and then maybe.)

There’s a quote by Sun Tzu that I have rewritten a little. My version is: “Imagine what I could do if I did all that I could.”

When it comes to me and writing, the only limits that stop me are the ones I give myself or the ones I let bind me up. I can and have written 100,000 words in 2 months. I can and have written 70,000 words in a single month. I can and have written complex novels and oneshots that interlock with each other over the course of almost 400,000 words.

2019 broke me down, but I am not broken. 2019 saw failure, but I have not failed.

Failure only happens when you give up.

And, really? Fuck that.

Maybe if a day comes that I run out of stories to tell, maybe then I’ll let failure take root. Until then, I’ve got a new novel to write, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The stories aren’t finished and neither am I.

To borrow a line from one of my greatest inspirations, Peter S Beagle and The Last Unicorn:

“Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”

Turn the page. It’s a new chapter.

2019 saw defeat.

Long live 2020, my new year of victory.

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I’ll be honest…

…I’m tired as hell today. On Friday we drove to Chicago for Sarah to spend 2 days at the International Tea Festival. Sarah drinks tea. I do not. At all. It was great for her and our other friend to spend their 2 days in classes about the history of tea, tea culture, how to taste differences in teas, stuff about the chemistry of the leaves…I don’t even know what all. They sampled something like 30 kinds of tea each, bought tea, received tea merch, talked to experts, the whole thing.

I, on the other hand, stayed in the hotel room and wrote 13,000 words in 2 days.

We also got dinner both nights in Chinatown, and that was absolutely fantastic. DUMPLINGS, folks. DUMP. LINGS.

Anyway.

But then yesterday was the return trip, and due to Chicago traffic, weather, road construction, and the fact that the last class of the festival didn’t even end until a bit after 4pm, we got in right around midnight. And as much as I enjoy the long drives and the music and the chance to think, I am still hella tired.

So, I’m giving myself permission to be tired.

Next week — actual substantive update. Promise.

Until then, I leave you this because it made me laugh way too hard (beware slight spoilers for not-quite-the-end of Avengers: Endgame):

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Bullying and bad dreams — and better days

Last night was apparently the night for bad dreams — I had them, and so did Sarah. Both of us have the unique skill/gift of remembering our dreams virtually every morning, so when the dreams are vivid, or upsetting, they tend to stick with us.

Mine were all about my personal bullies.

In eighth grade, I transferred schools and became the only new person in a class of 48. Yup, 48. That was hard enough, entering a group that was so small, that had been together since 5th, knowing nobody and being a true outsider. But I did my best to make friends, or at least get along with people, and before midway through the year I had found myself three or four friends. We would do long phone calls and hang out during free periods and they even came to my house once. It was fun, and it filled a hole in my life where I had lost most of my pre-existing friends when I made the transfer.

Now, I will be honest, I was a weird kid. Hell, I’m working my way towards 40 and I’m STILL a weird kid. I never could keep to topics that were “normal,” preferring to chatter about the most recent story I’d dreamed up, or what I’d read about Bigfoot being real, or experiments into ESP. The first non-fiction book I ever took out of the elementary school library was a book about unknown phenomena from aliens to Nessie, and my interests continued in those veins for years. Still do, to be honest.

I wish I remembered what happened. Things got odd between these new friends and I sometime in the spring, but I don’t recall the specifics. What I do recall is one awkward bus ride and one of them asking me something and not liking my answer. And by the time they got off the bus, we were no longer friends.

It was a sad and lonely time for me. Now I was stuck the rest of the school year with no peers at all I could talk to, no one to do homework with, no one who would sit by me. The rest of my classmates were fine, but they all saw me as an outsider. So they’d chat with me politely, but nobody ever invited me to hang out or actually attempted to include me in conversation. I was on the outside of every group but one, and then all at once I was on the outside of every group.

But I got through the year and hoped high school would be better. After all, in high school the class side would double. New people would come in and I would no longer be the only outsider. And, for a while, it was okay. I made a few friends through both sports and classes. The groups shifted and the dynamics of the 84 people in my grade loosened up a little. Plus, on a much larger campus, there was room for me to hang out in secluded spots so I was no longer forever stuck surrounded by people who would not engage me.

That peace didn’t last, however. Because two things happened:

First, the friends I made gravitated to the friends I had lost for the exact same reason I had befriended them in the first place. We were all nerds of one kind or another. We were all the socially awkward outcasts with in-jokes and interest in stuff off the beaten track. We were all a little too smart and a little too strange.

So my friends that I had made began alternating who would hang with whom, me or those I had lost. They would apologize to me. “Sorry, I said I’d eat lunch with them today. You don’t mind, right?” and go spend their time with those who had cast me out. And it hurt. But I couldn’t begrudge them. After all, they were good people, funny and clever, and I would have liked to be there myself. So I would shrug and try not to let the hurt get to me.

But the second thing was worse. Because one of those former friends decided to become my nightmare.

Of the former friends, one decided to take it to a new level. No one really ever knew why. Or, if they knew, no one told me. But it became another common refrain: “Geez. He really hates you. I mean, he HATES you. It’s really bad.”

He wouldn’t speak to me — ever. Even if we were in class groups together, which happened, or were doing something with an after school activity and happened to cross paths. He would not acknowledge my existence with anything other than a lethal glare. That, by itself, was difficult for me.

Then the drawings started.

I was not, ever, an attractive teenager. I had braces, bad skin, and hair that could kindly be called “frizzy.” (I still have 2 of the three some days.) Accordingly, I had almost zero self-esteem. They all knew that.

The bully would draw pictures of me, with sort of creepy frequency. I figured it was a way to blow off steam at the most readily-available target. The pictures were deeply and profoundly unflattering, both recognizable as me and monstrous in their execution. Torn from pages in notebooks, or taking up full half-sheets, the pen drawings exaggerated everything I hated about myself in loving detail.

And I saw them. I was meant to see them.

Sometimes they would appear on my desk in a class. Sometimes my new friends would hand them to me apologetically. Sometimes one would be waiting in the quiet spots I tended to frequent away from the bulk of my classmates. Once I even found one in my coat pocket.

Now, I don’t know to this day if the person who drew them was also the person delivering them, or if there were multiple hands in this torment. I’ll never know. But I know that someone was cruel enough to draw them, constantly, and someone was cruel enough to ensure I was aware of them. And, at least sometimes, they were delivered by people I did like and trust.

There was never any physical abuse in any of this. But there didn’t need to be.

For the entirety of high school, it continued. The silence, the pictures, and the split custody of my friends. I got into the habit of simply not eating lunch on days when my friends would sit at the table with the bullies. I would do homework, or read in the library, or work on music in the choral room. Anything to avoid being by myself in a lunchroom where every single person knew my name and knew why I had nobody. I never told anybody what was going on, and I never asked for it to stop. I never said a bad word about the bullies — not out of fear, but out of respect. Because as cruel as they were behaving towards me, I still thought them good and decent and deserving people.

As an adult, looking back, I feel so, so sad for the person I was, and how little I thought I deserved.

My friends should have been better, and I should have demanded such. Choosing to spend their time with people who made my life miserable because they were funny should not have been acceptable. Not if they were really friends. There is nothing okay about sitting and making jokes with someone who shows cruelty to others. But I was too lost and immature to ask for better, and I assume those who were my friends were too immature and caught up in their own lives to realize their role in perpetuating the cruelty against me.

By the end of senior year, however, I already knew those friendships were too weak to stand. Of the three people I had counted friends in high school, only one truly seemed to care about me. And she had made it very, very clear to me that she was not intending to carry anything from high school to college with her, including relationships. I’ve always been affectionate — that’s my nature. I think it did not work with her own. And that was fine. She was very clear about her expectations, and that was kinder, perhaps, than pretending to be closer than we were.

I left for college and have never, ever looked back. Nor will I. There will be no high school reunion for me, because there was no “union” in the first place. The school itself got me into the college that helped me redefine myself and create the life I now lead. That is its value and I am grateful for it. But there is nothing for me there with those people who knew my name and never gave me the time of day at best. And there is nothing worth revisiting with those who sought to bring me pain and isolation for years.

After the nightmares of last night, I did a bit of Google searching and found the three main people who started as friends and became points of sorrow thereafter. Anyone is surprisingly easy to track down if you know their full name and general location, after all.

The true bully, the one who drew pictures, has become semi-famous in his field. When I came upon a picture, my heart went into my throat and I was momentarily 16 years old again and just as hurt and lost. Even now, a thousand miles away and surrounded by loving people, he can still hurt me in remembrance.

I thought, for a moment, about contacting him through his website. Demanding to know if he remembered what he had done to me, how he had spent almost four and a half years making my life miserable. Finding out if he recognized the pain he had caused, deliberately, intentionally, constantly. Asking if he would admit that his treatment of me trickled down to everyone else I might ever have befriended and left me adrift. Seeking any kind of apology or acknowledgement.

But just as quickly, I discarded the idea.

Nothing good can come of it. Either he doesn’t care, still, and feels he was in the right at the time (or that his actions, while unkind, were not “bad enough” to warrant my seeking him out 20 years later), or he has done his own soul-searching and come to his own conclusions about his behavior, and he has to live with that guilt, too. Slamming back into his life would open up those floodgates for us both. And, the truth is, that an apology might feel good, but it isn’t going to make anything change. It won’t rewrite the history of those years. It won’t give me the chance at relationships with those already spread to the world. If he doesn’t care, then I am the only one who stands to get hurt all over again. If he does, then I don’t owe him my forgiveness or chance to make amends.

Life isn’t like the movies where the estranged people find one another after a long separation and cry and all is well ever after. One who was hurt does not owe their pain-maker a chance at redemption or a cinematic reconciliation. If it helps the one hurt, then of course it is a good thing — but if it does not, if it does not serve the person already in pain, then it is not worth the doing. Because it is the need of the one who was hurt that comes first.

And I have nothing I want to hear from that bully, so I have nothing to say.

Bullying doesn’t have to be physical, punching in the bathroom and worse in the locker room, to do lasting damage. It doesn’t have to be screamed insults or whispered comments to scar. Bullying takes many forms, as many as there are ways to hurt, and each and every one of those is valid. I was never hit by a classmate, never teased before my grade, but I was a victim of bullying nonetheless. Me and millions of others. And the shadows of that experience colored the first few years of my college life, until the roots I put down in Minnesota became strong enough to beat back the weeds of high school.

Last night, my dreams decided to remind me about all that I endured, and the harm it caused to me. But today, in the fading sunlight, I choose instead to think about how far I’ve come.

I was bullied and alone. But I am not anymore.

I’ve become strong enough to stand up for myself, to demand appropriate and respectful treatment, to defend others when a comment is aimed to hurt, even unintentionally.

I’ve found for myself people who are supportive and kind, people who would not sit idly by while someone spoke of me in a hurtful manner, people who would not choose to sit at a table with one determined to torment me.

I’ve learned that, while it may be a human response to lash out at others in your own selfishness when you are hurting, too, that I don’t have to take it from anyone. I’ve gained the confidence to be able to say, “I get that you’re not okay, but what you’re doing is not okay, also. Now do better.”

I’m happy in this life that I’ve built for myself. I have now far more than I ever dreamed I could find in those dark high school days.

And every one of you who reads this blog is a part of that.

My high school bullies are behind me. Thank you for helping me build the road ahead.

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Sorry, again

Yep, I’m still here. Things have been tough, so I’ve been giving myself permission to focus on the big stuff and let the smaller stuff slide. Which, obviously, includes the blog. However, since every single person who reads this thing knows me directly and has other means of interacting with me, I’m not too worried. You all know how to find me when you need me.

And I know how to find you, too. Promise.

But this poem came into my world, and now I’m sharing it with you. It’s actually the text of a song we’re learning for the November TCWC concert. It’s not the only one by this poet, and I think they are all truly phenomenal, but this is the one that keeps making it hard to learn music when getting all teary:

For Love of the World
by Charlotte Tall Mountain

For the love of a tree,
she went out on a limb.

For the love of the sea,
she rocked the boat.

For the love of the earth,
she dug deeper.

For the love of community,
she mended fences.

For the love of the stars,
she let her light shine.

For the love of spirit,
she nurtured her soul.

For the love of a good time,
she sowed seeds of happiness.

For the love of the Goddess,
she drew down the moon.

For the love of nature,
she made compost.

For the love of a good meal,
she gave thanks.

For the love of family,
she reconciled differences.

For the love of creativity,
she entertained new possibilities.

For the love of her enemies,
she suspended judgment.

For the love of herself,
she acknowledged her worth.

And the world was richer for her.

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Back from hiatus, I think

I’m sorry about the long silence. In the last month, there’s just been a lot going on. It’s not about me specifically, but it’s all personal, family-related stuff, so I don’t feel comfortable making it public. But, suffice it to say, many hospitalizations, scary calls/texts, and a great deal of pre-grief soul-searching has been underway. Not a fabulous month, all things considered.

I’m okay, though, because I have the greatest support network in the world.

What’s been odd is that this month has also been one of my most productive in 2019. I’ve written more, edited more, been more inspired, than I have all year. I think, at some point, I hit maximum crisis level. There’s a limit as to how much anxiety and fear and grief and loss and terror a person can feel at one time while remaining able to hold a job every day and do grocery shopping and not fall into unhealthy habits. And I can honestly say I’ve been pretty damn healthy this whole time. I’ve had to be. I’ve let myself cry when I needed to, and given myself permission to forget about it all and watch cartoons when needed. I’ve worked out many if not most days, listened to music, and come up with new story ideas.

I think I saturated my brain so hard, only work and creativity could exist alongside the rest of it.

Still. It’s reminded me how strong people are. People all over the world feel that and far, far worse every day of their lives, and still sing songs, write stories, pen tiny poems that scream their hearts. People can do amazing things to survive, to keep themselves going, to find a spot of joy and a bit of self in the morass that life sometimes gives us. People survive by finding wings and taking flight, even if they cannot move their bodies or escape from cement walls and bars or find even one moment of safety and peace in the day. People are resilient.

And I’m trying my best to be resilient, too.

I don’t always feel okay. There’s a lot still that rips at me, and I think I’m becoming increasingly afraid of getting texts from certain people. But I know the difference between being okay and knowing I’m going to be okay — and I’m going to be okay. Even if everything goes as south as it can go, if it all falls apart, I’ll grieve. I’ll cry and know a deep and terrible loss. I’ll never be the same. But I will be okay. I will be surrounded by those who love me, and they will hold me up when my own resilience gives out. And if the stories and writing haven’t left me now, then they’re never going to. I am a writer in good times and bad. I have it easier when life is easier, but I have it regardless, too.

So I’m going to try to get myself back into this posting habit. I may not always have much I can say, because sometimes the words can’t get through the muck of the rest of it. But I’m going to try. Because I’m still here. I’m still writing. I still have myself, and my courage, and when everything else is gone, I have those who love me.

I hope — I truly hope — that anyone who ever stumbles across my bit of the internet can say the same. And if you’re one of mine, then you should already know that you do.

I leave you with this. I’ve been watching a lot of auditions on YouTube lately (X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, America’s Got Talent, Idol, etc.) because either they are wonderful and soul-affirming, or they’re complete train wrecks and cringey-funny. And different days, I’ve needed different answers. But today was a soul-affirming clip.

It wasn’t what I expected, and it made me feel things I didn’t expect, either. But, then, life is rarely what I expect. And even when it is tragic, it is also still so beautiful.

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Warning: Downswing Commencing

I’ve been having a tough time lately. Maybe it’s a delayed post-CVG crash. But it feels more like a natural downswing, which means the only way forward is to ride it out. It’s not BAD in the way they get sometimes, at least not yet. But the voice inside that tells me that I’m a waste of space and not worth the time or attention from anyone I respect or cherish is a whole lot louder and stronger than the voice that usually rises up in opposition.

It makes it hard to do anything this way. Even to reach out and ask for help. Because how can I possibly ask another for support or encouragement or kindness when I can’t believe I’m worth it? When such an expenditure on their part would be a waste, since they can’t possibly really mean it and I don’t deserve to take it from them?

And then help arrives, and sometimes it makes the voice even louder. “See. Look at that. They put themselves out for me, gave me energy they should have kept for themselves or someone that matters more. And I don’t feel better. So I was right. I am a waste of everyone’s time, because even their generosity doesn’t fix me.”

It’s all lies, of course. Depression lies.

But lies still hurt, still weaken what is already weak. It’s the “fake news” of mental health, but it can still have devastating consequences.

The more insidious lies are the ones about me and my worth, or lack thereof.

There is a part of me that may never believe, no matter how long I try, that anything I do is worthwhile, that it is enough, that it has intrinsic value. Because how can I believe in something of my own, when I can already see how much less it is than another’s? An example is with music. I can sing, sure. I can write lyrics. But I’ll never sing well enough to feel truly okay about it. I’ll never look at a song I wrote and feel that it is sufficient. And then I look at the songs sung by people in the choir, or songs written by Beth, and everything I do feels like crayon scribbles and hoarse shouting in comparison.

I know that there will always be someone better than me at literally everything possible. That’s how the world works. But there’s a difference between “I will never be the best” and “Mine is so much less that it has no worth” and that’s where I get stuck.

In a good frame of mind, I can hold onto this quote from Madeline L’Engle:

My husband is my most ruthless critic. … Sometimes he will say, “It’s been said better before.” Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.

In a good frame of mind, I can summon even a spark of defiance. “I may scream into the void, but it’s MY scream, dammit, and I WILL BE HEARD.”

In a good frame of mind, putting any of the truth of myself into the world is worthy enough, and quality matters only in the minds of others.

But I’m not in a good frame of mind today.

However.

If there is a nice thing in this pit of awful, it’s in my self-awareness. I know, even if I can neither feel nor believe it now, that this will pass. No part of me can internalize it, but it’s true nonetheless. I don’t have to feel it or believe it to know that it’s true. This will pass, and I’ll again be able to take pride in what is mine, regardless of how good or not good it is. This will pass and I will be able to feel again that the act of living, of creating, of being myself is worthy in and of itself.

No matter how beaten down and worthless I feel, I know that nothing keeps me down forever.

Sometimes the brain chemicals go wonky. Sometimes the scale slips and the spectrum gets a little heavier on the depression side of bipolar. Sometimes the pain comes, the doubt, the self-hate, the defeat, the loathing, the sorrow.

Right now, that’s all I can feel.

But I know that it won’t beat me.

I can’t summon Defiance or Courage right now. I don’t feel the good things that the people who care for me would offer if I asked. Nothing penetrates the haze.

But today there is still one thing greater than that haze, one thing more powerful still. And to that I cling.

Honor.

Defiance has gone dormant in me. Endurance is exhausted and doesn’t care to raise its head today. But there is a reason I started my pillars with Honor, and a reason it provides the framework.

I put this up on another entry just about a year ago. It’s a quote from Jane Eyre:

“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”

In this case, it is the literal truth of where I am at.

I am in a downswing, and the world has lost meaning. I have no value. The outlook is bleak.

But I have given my word to many people, and to myself. I made promises to be there for others, to take care of them, to treat them with compassion, to support them, to laugh with them. I have meetings on my calendar and tasks on my list that rely upon me to accomplish them. These are all vows and agreements I made when I was sane, as it were. When I was not in the dark place that now surrounds me.

So I plant my feet in my Honor. If I cannot believe in the good things, I cannot give up on them either because I gave my word. And if I can hold onto nothing else in this haze, if nothing else is real and true, then my word shall be.

Just because I can’t feel good about things, because I can’t see one iota of worth in myself, that does not give me the right to be forsworn. Just because I would rather give up does not give me the right to break promises. Just because I am nothing does not mean my vows and service to others are similarly nothing.

And as I think on that a while, as I lean on Honor as the pillar which as not forsaken me, then others start to wake up again.

Endurance chuckles like an exhausted boxer in the ring. “Down and out? Not yet.”

Courage opens a sleepy eye. “It doesn’t matter if your heart is screaming. Get up anyway; it’s only pain.”

Defiance hauls in a breath after near suffocation. “If the world is against you, even inside your own head, then the only option is to fight back anyway.”

And they speak together.

“So what if you’re worthless? Worst case scenario is that you are precisely what you feel. So what if you’re right and nothing you contribute can ever matter? So fucking what? Get up. If the best you can do is not bring harm to someone else by keeping your damn word, then do that. If there is NOTHING ELSE in you that matters, then all that’s left are the chains that bind you to obligation. Loath yourself if you want, but you WILL honor those chains until there is no breath left in your body.”

That is why I know, even if I can’t feel it, that this will pass. That is why I know that I won’t be beaten. Because for as long as I am bound in Honor to those I cherish, for as long as I have even one vow outstanding, no matter how I feel, I will have the strength to pull through long enough for everything else to rebound and the haze to fade.

And that is how I will get through today.

Not on the faith that the sun will come up and I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Not because I am loved.

But because I bent the shape of my very self into a thousand promises, put them above everything else. So even if I wanted to lay down and die, I can’t. Not with those vows unfulfilled. They can cut like razors or burn like lava, but they keep me from slipping away.

When you get right down to it, the only real feeling I have left is the love I have for everyone else.

And for them, I will Honor my responsibilities, my promises, my vows.

And for them, I will find a way to Endure the self-hate in order to uphold that Honor.

And for them, that Endurance will become Courage, because fuck pain and fear anyway.

And for them, I will find the Courage once more to Defy even the chemicals in my brain, to throw my head back, and scream, and be heard, and the void will be filled again.

It’s not a smooth process. It drags every part of me over coals and barbed wire and glass shards and gravel. And from moment to moment, I do put my head down and surrender. But those moments pass and the next comes. And because I know that this is not the end, that this cannot be how every breath of my life will feel, because I know that cycles turn and the wheel gives way to a new beginning, I keep going.

I’m not okay. I dunno when I’ll be okay next.

But I’m here. And I have my pillars to which I cling.

Nothing in the world can fix me. But nothing inside me can eradicate me, either.

So, in the end, the only result is success. Even triumph.

Might take me a while, but I’ve got time.

See you on the other side of the haze.

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Back from CONvergence!

I’m back in the real world, but still catching up to reality, if that makes sense. There’s something I put on Twitter about how hard and strange it is to return to life outside the convention after spending a week deep within it. The feeling of isolation has passed (radio withdrawal is a THING), but there’s still a part of me that hasn’t quite put down the mantle of responsibility. I still feel a bit like I’m holding up a pillar upon which my part of the convention stands — and, to some extent, I am. Because I am not a Co-Head only for the 6ish days of CONvergence. I am a Co-Head always. Because stuff happens, always.

But that’s a different discussion.

Anyway, I’m almost back to being fully able to pretend to be a muggle. I’ve had new ideas for stories since CVG, and I’ve appreciated my condo more than ever — cleaning up 3 rooms is SO MUCH EASIER than 3 levels of a house. I’ve even sung a choir gig, including the song where I have the big solo. So life really is continuing whether or not I’m fully back in it.

This week is going to be a bear, however, as I spend the next 3 days locked for 9 hours in one conference room with my work team doing in-person training. Which means not being at home, not hugging Sarah whenever I feel like it, not sitting around in comfy pants, and not having any chance to not be a perfect worker in front of my boss. SIGH.

So I’m going to take this evening and enjoy myself fully to stock up for the next few days of pure slog.

But before I go — look! I actually remembered to get a picture of myself in my full steampunk gear! Complete with a hat I made out of cardboard (that looks absolutely fabulous up close)!

This was, hands down, the most comfortable cosplay I’ve ever done. And, yes, there are rainbow colors in my hair. A friend wove colored extensions into my braids, which freaking made my day when it turned out so well. I think I may start taking more opportunities to add a little color to my hair whenever I can because it made me so happy!

The whole cosplay made me happy, actually. From the Victorian-era maps on the inside of my tails to the gears broach to the plaque on my hat that says “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” to the prismatic goggles to the LEDs that lit the whole thing up. It just worked for me.

What do you think?

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CONvergence is imminent!

And therefore my brain is tied up in knots and feeling very much like an Escher painting. So I’m going to take my official break and pick the blog back up afterwards.

Until then, here’s about how my brain feels chasing after this crazy thing we call my convention…

(It really is wonderful and fun, too. Just…”you starve and near exhaust me” has a solid ring of truth to it…)

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